For the first time in seven years, Taylor Swift performed at the Academy of Country Music Awards — and she did so with a queer anthem.
The folklore singer sang 'betty,' a song hailed as "queer canon" among sapphic fans on Twitter once the track dropped in July. In her review in The Advocate, Becca Damante noted how "literally every single lyric of this song" was a "lesbian Easter egg."
"From the image of someone riding on a skateboard past Betty’s house, and feeling like they couldn’t breathe to lyrics about being led “to the garden” and “kiss[ing] ... in front of all your stupid friends,” this is probably the gayest song Swift has ever written," Damante declared.
The song struck such a chord with queer women — Betty Who included — that Swift herself clarified in a later interview that she wrote it "from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy," which rather than inhibit queer interpretation arguably added a gender-bending valence.
"Betty" was an interesting choice for Swift, to say the least, to debut at one of America's most conservative music institutions. She sang with a black guitar and in a red sequined dress at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House, the bastion of country music — a notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ genre. It was Swift's first time performing the song live. Additionally, the ceremony was aired Wednesday live on CBS, the most right-leaning outlet on network television.
Swift began her career as a country singer. She has won ACM Awards in her career, including its Entertainer of the Year Award. She has since transitioned to pop music, but the new folk-inspired folklore marks her closest return to the genre.
Although Swift has been mum on political issues throughout most of her career, she broke her silence to urge her fans to vote in the 2018 midterm elections — against anti-LGBTQ+ candidates like Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn. Although the Republican triumphed in that U.S. Senate election, Swift has since remained a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community.